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The Last Drop of Blood

The Last Drop of Blood

Автором Graham Masterton

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The Last Drop of Blood

Автором Graham Masterton

оценки:
5/5 (1 оценка)
Длина:
506 pages
8 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 6, 2020
ISBN:
9781789544107
Формат:

Описание

The final thriller in the million-copy-selling Katie Maguire series.

In the driver's seat of a Jaguar, on a country road, a good man burns.

Justice Garrett Quinn should have been at a sentencing. He was one of the good ones, fighting for order in a lawless world. In a burned-out car, on the outskirts of Cork, DS Katie Maguire finds what's left of him.

But this is only the beginning. The judge's death sparks a gang war fought with bullets and bombs, and civilians are caught in the crossfire. As the city spirals deeper into violence, Ireland's most fearless detective must find the courage to fight for her hometown one last time.

Katie Maguire is no stranger to sacrifice – but she has lost so much already. Facing new horrors each day, Katie must decide: can she do her duty when she has nothing left to give?

Praise for Graham Masterton:

'One of this country's most exciting crime novelists. If you have not read one, read them all now' Daily Mail.
'A tough and gritty thriller with an attractive principal character' Irish Independent.
'Graham Masterton is a natural storyteller' New York Journal of Books.
'Any fan of mysteries should grab this book' Irish Examiner.

Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 6, 2020
ISBN:
9781789544107
Формат:

Об авторе

Graham Masterton was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1946. He worked as a newspaper reporter before taking over joint editorship of the British editions of Penthouse and Penthouse Forum magazines. His debut novel, The Manitou, was published in 1976 and sold over one million copies in its first six months. It was adapted into the 1978 film starring Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens, Michael Ansara, and Burgess Meredith. Since then, Masterton has written over seventy-five horror novels, thrillers, and historical sagas, as well as published four collections of short stories and edited Scare Care, an anthology of horror stories for the benefit of abused children. He and his wife, Wiescka, have three sons. They live in Cork, Ireland, where Masterton continues to write.  

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The Last Drop of Blood - Graham Masterton

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1

The two gardaí were still struggling to pull the drunken traveller out of The Bridle’s front door when they heard a boom! in the distance, like a bomb going off.

Garda Micky Phelan looked around and said, ‘What in the name of Jesus was that?’

‘Take your filthy crubeens off me, will you?’ the traveller blurted at him. ‘I’ll report you for racial discrimification, you see if I don’t.’

‘Shut your bake, you’re totally mouldy,’ Garda Neasa O’Connor snapped at him. ‘You know full well that you’re barred from The Bridle. And the bang of benjy off of you, I swear – it’s enough to make a maggot gag.’

Patrick the barman came out of the doorway, wiping his hands on his apron. ‘Holy Mother of God, that was one hell of a wallop, wasn’t it? What do you think it was?’

‘No idea at all,’ said Garda Phelan. ‘It was way too loud for a crow banger.’

‘You’re right. It sounded to me like it came from those new houses – the ones over there at Sean-áit Feirme. Let’s hope it wasn’t a gas main blew up. They had a ball of trouble there with gas leaks only a couple of months ago. Bord Gáis was around there every other day.’

‘For feck’s sake, will you let go of me,’ the traveller demanded. He must have been somewhere in his mid-fifties, with wild grey hair like a bramble patch and a face so crimson with drink that it was almost purple. He was wearing a tan leather jerkin and a soiled check shirt with his belly hanging out. The front of his baggy green corduroy trousers was dark with urine.

‘We’ll let you go, boy, as soon as we’re sure that you’re well on your way.’

‘Okay, okay. My truck’s over there, see, next to them rubbish bins.’

‘If you think we’re going to let you drive you must be Fecky the Ninth. Off you go. It’s only a couple of kilometres down to your halting site. If you don’t fall into too many ditches you should be able to get there before it starts pouring.’

Between them, Garda Phelan and Garda O’Connor managed to heave the traveller across the car park like a sackful of rotten potatoes. Once they had reached the pavement they released their grip on his arms and he stood in front of them for a few moments, swaying.

‘Curse a God on you altogether, both of you,’ he slurred, and let out a ripping two-tone burp. ‘My cat’s curse on you, too. I hope the Devil uses your spines for a ladder.’

With that, he went shuffling off down the Ballyhooly Road, occasionally stumbling, and at one point stopping and holding on to a telephone pole to steady himself.

‘Maybe we should have given him a lift,’ said Garda O’Connor.

‘What, and have the back seat soaked in Pavee piss? No thanks.’

The traveller had just disappeared around the bend in the road when they heard another boom, not as loud as the first, but still enough to make them frown at each other and then turn around. About half a kilometre away, somewhere along the Ballincollie Road, a column of thick black smoke was piling up into the pale grey afternoon sky.

‘That’s no gas main,’ said Garda Phelan. ‘I don’t know what the feck that is but we need to go and check it out so.’

The barman was still standing in the doorway as they hurried past him. He raised his hand and said, ‘Thanks a million! Come along and have a scoop when you’re off-duty! It’s on the house!’

The two officers climbed into their squad car, slammed the doors, and sped out of The Bridle’s car park with a squitter of tyres. They turned down Ballincollie Road, a narrow hedge-lined boreen that ran south-westwards towards Dublin Pike. As they passed the new housing estate at Sean-áit Feirme with its red-brick detached houses, they could see now that the smoke was rising from somewhere further down the road. There was scarcely any wind, and so the smoke was towering up above them, higher and higher like some mythical ogre.

About three hundred metres past Sean-áit Feirme they came around a curve and saw a burning car by the side of the road. It was blazing so fiercely that it had set the hedge alight, too, so that the blackthorn and hazel bushes were lit up with thousands of crackling orange sparks. The car was white, but already its roof and the upper part of its bodywork had been blackened by the fire. All its windows had shattered and inside it was an inferno, so it was impossible to see if there was anybody inside it.

A tractor had been parked about fifty metres away, blocking the road, and a farmer in a tweed cap and a black donkey jacket was standing close to it, holding a bucket and looking hopeless.

Garda Phelan pulled their squad car into the verge and both he and Garda O’Connor jumped out. Garda O’Connor opened the boot and lifted out their fire extinguisher, and as they walked quickly towards the burning car, Garda Phelan called the fire station at Ballyvolane and Garda headquarters at Anglesea Street, breathlessly giving them the car’s location and its registration number.

The heat was so ferocious that they were still ten metres away from the flames when their faces began to feel scorched. They slowed down and stopped, and even backed away a little. All around the car, the asphalt road surface was bubbling up, and above its roof the air was rippling like a desert mirage.

Garda Phelan took the fire extinguisher from Garda O’Connor and started to spray dry powder towards the fire, waving it up and down over the top of the car. The flames subsided a little, but as soon as the extinguisher was empty they leapt up again, and now the car’s tyres were blazing, too.

The farmer came bustling up to join them. His boots made a wobbling sound as he walked, and he shielded his face with his arm as he passed close to the car.

‘Ah, Jesus. I never saw nothing like it. I tried chucking dirt over it, but it was like pissing in the wind, do you know what I mean?’

‘Did you see it go up?’ asked Garda Phelan.

‘I didn’t, no. I was on my way up to that field yonder to pick up some bales of hay and that’s when I heard it. Badoom! like. I drove back down the hill as fast as I could but by that time it was raging away already. I could see that there was a feller sitting behind the wheel but he was flames all over and I couldn’t get nearly close enough to pull him out of there. I just pray to God that he didn’t suffer too much.’

The farmer crossed himself and shook his head. In the distance – over the snapping and popping of the burning car – they could hear a siren. Ballyvolane fire station was only five minutes away, and there was always an engine there on standby, twenty-four hours a day. At least one more engine would probably be sent up from Cork city centre.

By the time the fire engine appeared, with its blue lights flashing, the flames had begun to die down, although the tyres were still smouldering and smoke was billowing out of the passenger compartment even thicker than before. Garda O’Connor tugged at Garda Phelan’s sleeve and said, ‘Look, Micky. You can just about see the driver. Mother of God, he’s burned to a cinder.’

‘Could be a she, like.’

‘Not in a car like this. I doubt it. It’s a Jaguar XJ6, isn’t it, an old one? That’s probably why we heard two explosions. It has the twin petrol tanks, one in each wing.’

‘Okay, if you say so. You know a whole lot more about cars than I do, Neasa, but then my da didn’t run a garage like yours did.’

Three firefighters had started spraying the car with copious streams of white foam, which rolled in puffballs across the road and clung to the hedges on either side. Noel Hogan, the station officer, strode over to Garda Phelan and Garda O’Connor, chunky and broken-nosed like a middleweight boxer and brusque as ever, with no time at all for ‘what’s the story?’ or ‘how’re ye going on?’

‘Totally gutted,’ he said. ‘Any notion how it happened?’

‘Not a clue, Noel. Neasa and me were busy at The Bridle, slinging out this langered knacker who’d gawked all over the shop and then had the gall to call out for another pint of Murphy’s. We heard it, though. One fecking great bang, and then another, but the second one not so loud. Neasa here reckons it has two fuel tanks, this car, and so maybe one went up after the other. Hard to say for sure, looking at the state of it now.’

The farmer came forward again, his hand raised like a boy in school. ‘There’s something I didn’t tell you. When I heard the first badoom, like, there was another car stopped right in front of this one. It went shooting off straight away, though, so I didn’t get much of a look at it.’

‘What type of car? Any idea?’

‘No, I couldn’t tell you. It was a fair old size, though, do you know what I mean? One of your VSUs I’d say. Silver, or grey. But I couldn’t say what make or nothing like that. Maybe a Toyota, or a Range Rover – something like one of them.’

‘And which direction did it go in?’

‘That way… down towards Ferncarrig.’

Two of the firefighters approached them now. One of them took off his helmet and tucked it under his arm.

‘There’s only the one occupant, sir,’ he told Station Officer Hogan. ‘Still strapped in his seat belt. If he had any ID on him I’d say it’s been thoroughly incinerated, along with him.’

‘Well, I’ve already called in the reg number, so we may find out who he is in a minute or two,’ said Garda Phelan. ‘I’ll be after calling in a description of that other vehicle, too – the SUV. It could be that somebody spotted it going through Ferncarrig, especially if it was speeding along real quick. You never know.’

The five of them walked towards the blackened wreckage of the Jaguar, although Garda Phelan turned around to the farmer and said, ‘If you don’t mind staying back, sir. I’ll be taking a statement from you later so.’

‘I’ve seen burned bodies before,’ the farmer protested. ‘My cousin worked at the Rocky Island crematorium.’

Despite saying that, he held back as Garda Phelan, Garda O’Connor and Station Officer Hogan approached the car. Both of its rear wings had been blown upward in tatters, so that it looked as if a monstrous crow had landed on it.

‘You were spot on about them two petrol tanks, Neasa,’ said Garda Phelan.

A stooped figure was sitting in the driver’s seat, charred completely black. From its apparent height, it was more likely than not to be a man. He was wearing an epaulette of foam on each shoulder and a foam wig on top of his head, which was gradually dripping down on each side, where his ears had been. He was still wearing steel-rimmed spectacles, although the heat had melted the plastic lenses so that they were drooping down from the bottom of the frames like teardrops.

For almost half a minute, none of the officers spoke. Then Station Officer Hogan turned to the firefighters and said, ‘Give it all a while to cool off, like. Then haul the sheet over it. It looks like rain’s on the way.’

Garda Phelan’s phone rang. He walked away to answer it, one finger in his ear to drown out the roaring noise of the fire engine.

‘Okay, yes, I have you,’ he said. Then, ‘You’re not codding me, are you? Jesus. Okay. Well, we can’t say for sure if it’s him, the state he’s in. Totally, yes. Clonakilty black pudding isn’t in it. No, not yet. But okay, that’s grand altogether. Thanks a million, Josh.’

He came back to join Garda O’Connor and Station Officer Hogan.

‘It’s a Jaguar XJ6 all right, V12, first registered in 1992 to Mr Sean Buttivant. Ownership was transferred in 1998 to Mr Garrett Quinn, and the car hasn’t been re-registered since then to anybody else.’

‘Not the Garrett Quinn?’ said Garda O’Connor. She looked back at the blackened corpse sitting behind the Jaguar’s steering wheel with an expression of both horror and disbelief.

‘That’s your man. The Honourable Mr Justice Garrett Quinn, of the Central Criminal Court, may he rest in peace. Always supposing that’s him, of course.’

‘Well – he has the wig, like,’ said Station Officer Hogan, just before the lump of foam finally slid off the top of the corpse’s head and into his lap.

2

Katie and Kyna were passing Rathcormac on the main M8 road back to Cork city when drops of rain started to measle their windscreen.

‘At least it held off for the burial,’ said Kyna.

Katie didn’t answer. She was still feeling that she had dreamed the funeral they had attended at Caherelly Graveyard in Limerick. She had loved Conor so much that it had been impossible for her to think it had really been him inside the pale oak coffin that had been lowered into the ground right in front of her feet. Him – or what had been left of him after he had blown himself up.

Over a hundred mourners had come to the service, including Conor’s former wife, Clodagh, although Clodagh had been dressed in grey rather than black, with a white lily in her lapel, as if to show she wasn’t altogether sorry that he was dead.

Most of the mourners had been relatives or friends from the ISPCA or people whose stray or stolen dogs Conor had found during his career as a dog detective. Katie had thought it was sadly appropriate that he was being buried not far from the grave of Dolores O’Riordan, the singer from the Cranberries. Her ‘Dreams’ had been one of Conor’s favourite songs: The person falling here is me.

The rain fell harder and harder, so that Katie had to switch the windscreen wipers to beat backwards and forwards as fast as they would go. There was hardly any other traffic on the road, and they drove for several kilometres without seeing any other cars at all, which increased Katie’s feeling of desolation. Kyna must have sensed how she was feeling, because she reached across and gave her thigh a gentle squeeze.

Katie’s phone played Mo Ghille Mear, my gallant hero, which she had first used as her ringtone when she and Conor had started living together. She saw that it was a call from Detective Patrick O’Donovan, so she passed her phone over to Kyna.

‘Patrick? This is DS Ní Nuallán. Herself is driving at the moment.’

She listened, and then she said to Katie, ‘He’s apologizing for ringing you, because he knows you’ve been to Conor’s funeral. But he says there’s something you need to know urgent-like. Like, pure urgent-like.’

‘Go on, then, if it’s that urgent. What is it?’

Kyna listened again, frowning, and then she said, ‘Holy Saint Rita.’

‘Come on, tell me,’ said Katie. ‘Don’t keep me in suspense.’

Kyna raised her hand to indicate that she was still listening. ‘Where? Okay. And the two of them are still there, O’Connor and Phelan? All right, Patrick. I have you. We’ll see you there so. Well, yes – I’ll have to ask her, of course.’

‘Ask her what?’ said Katie, as Kyna handed her phone back.

‘Gardaí O’Connor and Phelan have just attended a car that was on fire on the road between White’s Cross and Dublin Pike. The fire brigade have put it out, but the driver’s still inside it. He was burned to death.’

‘Was there anybody else in the car, apart from him?’

‘Not so far as we know. There’s a witness, apparently, and if anybody else had escaped from the car before it blew up he would have seen them. He saw another vehicle, though, an SUV, which drove off quick as soon as the car caught fire.’

‘Is Patrick going up to White’s Cross himself?’

‘Yes, with Sean Begley and Padragain Scanlan. And of course Bill Phinner’s sending up a forensic team, too.’

‘So what’s so desperately urgent?’

‘Well, it depends on who the driver is. He’s too badly burned to make an identification on the spot, like. But the car’s an old Jaguar that’s registered to Mr Justice Garrett Quinn.’

What?

‘That’s what he said. Mr Justice Garrett Quinn.’

‘How can that be? Justice Quinn’s supposed to be in court this afternoon. He’s due to be handing down the sentence to Donal Hagerty.’

‘If that’s him in the car there’s no chance of that.’

‘Mother of God,’ said Katie. ‘Where did you say this car was? White’s Cross?’

‘That’s right. On the Ballincollie Road, not far from The Bridle.’

‘Ring Patrick back. Tell him to get in touch with the court office manager and find out if Justice Quinn has showed up yet.’

‘He’s already done that, ma’am. There’s no sign of him yet, although the sentencing isn’t due till three.’

‘Right. Let’s go and take a look at this car. If we turn off at Killalough Cross it isn’t too far.’

Katie put her foot down and they began to speed at more than 100 kph into the lashing rain. Kyna sat silent for a moment, but then she said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Sean can take care of it, no problem at all. And you’ve just laid Conor to rest.’

‘I know. But it’ll give me something to take my mind off it. And besides, I’ve known Justice Quinn since before I was promoted. If it is him – it’ll be a tragedy. He’s kind, and he’s fair, and he’s the handsomest judge I’ve ever known.’

Kyna said nothing, but sat with her hands in her lap as they turned off at Killalough Cross and drove down the winding roads that would take them to the scene of the burned-out car.

*

They arrived at the same time as Assistant Chief Fire Officer Matthew Whalen, and parked right behind his red Ford Ranger. As they were climbing out of their car into the rain, a second fire engine came down the boreen, its blue lights flashing, although it was obvious now that it wouldn’t be needed. The burned-out car had been draped over with a large grey tarpaulin and the first-responding firefighters were standing around it, shuffling their feet, dripping wet and subdued.

Katie lifted her shiny black raincoat out of the back seat. It had a pointed hood and Conor had always told her that it made her look like one of the witches of Islandmagee. Kyna’s yellow anorak had a hood, too, with a furry surround. They caught up with Matthew Whalen, and as they did so, Garda Phelan and Garda O’Connor got out of their car, where they had been sheltering, and Station Officer Hogan came over, too.

‘So, what’s the story?’ asked Katie.

‘It looks like both petrol tanks went up, one after the other,’ said Station Officer Hogan. ‘We’ll have to see what the fire investigation fellows have to say about it, of course, and your technical experts. As a general rule, though, almost all spontaneous vehicle fires start in the engine compartment, not the petrol tank.’

‘Meaning that you don’t think this was spontaneous?’

‘Like I say, we’ll have to wait for Cumann Imscrúdaitheorí Dóitéan to check it out. But I’d bet money that this fire was started deliberate-like.’

‘Detective O’Donovan said that a witness saw another vehicle here, just before it blew up.’

‘That’s right, ma’am,’ said Garda O’Connor. ‘That farmer standing over there by his tractor. A grey or silver SUV, that’s what he said it was. We’re going to be showing him pictures of various vehicles to see if he can narrow it down a bit.’

‘O’Donovan also told me that this car’s registered to Justice Garrett Quinn. Have you been able to tell if it’s him who was driving?’

‘We haven’t been able to identify the driver for sure. We didn’t want to touch him before the technical experts, do you know what I mean. There’s an iPhone lying on the floor in front of the passenger seat, but its screen is all shattered, like, and again we didn’t want to touch it in case we messed up any forensics.’

Katie turned back to Station Officer Hogan. ‘I’d like to take a look at the driver.’

‘He’s a bit on the burnt side, ma’am, as you can imagine.’

‘I’ve seen worse.’

‘Okay, then,’ said Station Officer Hogan. ‘Lads – can you be after lifting up that tarp so that DS Maguire can take a sconce at the body?’

Two of the firefighters raised the wet tarpaulin and folded it noisily over the roof of the burned-out car. Katie approached it, walking stiffly, and then stood looking for almost half a minute at the carbonized figure sitting behind the steering wheel. His skin had been burned away, so that his muscles were exposed and ruptured, all bobbly and black, as if he had been roughly sculpted out of lumps of coal. His eye sockets were empty and his brown teeth were bared in a wolfish snarl.

The interior of the car was skeletal. All that remained of the seats was their metal framework and the shiny walnut fascias had been blistered and charred. Katie noticed that the driver’s right hand was still resting on the steering wheel, almost casually.

She stepped right up close to the driver’s door. She had already seen what she had been dreading she would see, but she wanted to make absolutely sure. There was no question about it. The carbonized man was Justice Garrett Quinn. She crossed herself and whispered, ‘Please, Lord, grant him eternal rest.’ Then she turned away, tugging her hood down low so that Station Officer Hogan and the rest of the firefighters wouldn’t see that her eyelashes were crowded with tears.

Kyna came up to her. ‘Are you all right, ma’am?’

‘Yes, thank you, Kyna. Grand altogether.’

‘You’re not, though.’

‘Why are you always so perceptive? No, I’m not.’

They walked back to their car together. They had almost reached it when two more cars arrived, as well as a white Transit van from the Technical Bureau. Detective Sergeant Sean Begley and Detective Padragain Scanlan climbed out of the first car, while Detective O’Donovan climbed out of the second.

‘How’s it going, ma’am?’ asked Detective Sergeant Begley. He was wearing a camel-coloured duffel coat that was far too tight for him because he had regained almost all the weight he had lost before Christmas, and a flat brown tweed cap that resembled a large cowpat. Detective Scanlan was looking tired but as pretty as ever. She had grown her blonde hair longer and pinned it back in a tight French pleat.

‘It’s Justice Quinn all right,’ said Katie. ‘He’s been burned beyond any facial identification, but I recognize the ring that he’s wearing.’

‘Really?’ said Detective Sergeant Begley.

‘It’s a claddagh band, Sean. White and yellow gold. There’s only one exactly like it, and it’s his.’

Matthew Whalen had come up to join them. Katie said, ‘I’ve just been telling DS Begley that there’s no doubt at all. Our victim is Justice Quinn. He’s wearing a claddagh band that I know he never takes off, and it’s unique.’

‘Holy Saint Joseph,’ said Detective O’Donovan. ‘I’m fierce surprised it didn’t melt, like, you know what I mean?’

Matthew Whalen shook his head. ‘If it’s gold, it wouldn’t have done. Gold doesn’t melt below one thousand and sixty-four degrees Celsius – not your eighteen-carat gold, any road. The hottest temperature that we’ve ever recorded in a burning test vehicle is nine hundred degrees.’

‘Don’t tell me they persuaded some gombeen to sit inside a burning car holding a thermometer,’ said Detective Sergeant Begley, but Kyna immediately gave him a look that told him this wasn’t the time to make jokes. Katie had turned her head away so that she could wipe her eyes with the back of her hand, and both Detective O’Donovan and Detective Scanlan had clearly realized from her tone of voice that she was distressed.

She wasn’t about to tell them why she had been able to identify Justice Quinn’s ring – not yet, anyway, and even then she wouldn’t tell them the whole story. Briefly, a long time ago, shortly after she had been promoted to inspector, she and Garrett Quinn had been close. That claddagh band meant what all claddagh bands are meant to signify, an affection and a friendship that will last as long as life.

3

Thomas O’Flynn was sitting in the back bar of The Weavers with his latest girlfriend and three of his henchmen when Billy Hagerty came in to tell him that his brother’s sentencing hearing had been postponed.

‘So why’s that, then?’

‘I haven’t a baldy. I asked them at the court but they wouldn’t tell me. They said it may be a couple of days now before they tell him how long he’s going down for, do you know.’

‘That’s a fecking pain in the arse. I was told that it was all going to be over by this afternoon, for definite.’

The Weavers was a small run-down pub on a steep corner of Gerald Griffin Street in Blackpool, on the north side of Cork city, with dark oak-panelled dados and faded photographs of 1960s’ hurling heroes clustered on the walls. A peat fire was sullenly smoking in the corner, with a damp mustard-coloured water spaniel lying in front of it.

Thomas O’Flynn was the smartest man in there. He was wearing a shiny grey three-piece suit from Gentleman’s Quarters, with a high-collared white shirt and a black-and-white St Nick’s GAA tie. His face, though, was the kind of face that might suddenly appear out of nowhere in a nightmare. Underneath a thinning blond comb-over he was white as chalk, with sharp triangular cheekbones, a long, pointed nose and a narrow jaw that almost seemed to go on for ever until it was suddenly squared off at the end. His eyes were so small and squinched that it looked almost as if he didn’t have eyes at all, although he had tangled blond eyebrows, which rose and fell as he talked, especially when he was angry, or threatening, so that he didn’t need his eyes to convey how he felt.

Billy Hagerty pulled out a chair and sat down on the opposite side of the table. He was a short, bulky man with a shaved head and he looked even bulkier in his bronze puffer jacket.

‘I tell you – they should’ve given Donal a fecking medal for offing that Micky Riordan, not fecking charged him.’

‘Oh, yeah?’

‘I mean, Christ on a bicycle, he was only doing what the cops should’ve done, donkey’s years ago. When Jimmy the Nixer and Aodghan got shot and dumped in the river, did the cops lift Micky Riordan then? They must’ve known for sure who’d done it, but they didn’t even haul him in and ask him what he’d had for breakfast.’

‘Fair play to you, Billy,’ said Thomas, lowering his eyebrows. ‘But your Donal overstepped the mark by way too far when he did for Micky’s missus and his two little wains as well. If he’d taken out Micky alone – well, maybe the razzers might have looked on him a sight more lenient, like, or even turned a blind eye.’

‘It was self-defence, like. He didn’t do it for choicer.’

‘Oh, yeah. Self-defence against a nine-year-old girl and a lad of six, and their mammy, and Donal with nothing at all to protect himself but a couple of fully loaded Glocks.’

‘He was worried they’d be witnesses, Thomas, and he was pure sorry about it afterwards. He even went to confession.’

‘Well, I suppose that might have done some good, because it’s a miracle that the razzers never connected him to me. And any road it’s too late now. They can’t be unkilled, and I’ve done as much as I can to make the judges go easy on him. We’ll just have to wait and see now what kind of a sentence they come up with.’

‘Hey, Tommy – I’ll tell you what you can give me,’ put in Thomas O’Flynn’s girlfriend, in a throaty voice.

‘Not in here, Muireann. Not in front of the lads, like. You’ll be giving them all heart attacks.’

‘Oh, get out of here, Tommy. I didn’t mean that. I’d like another Bertha’s Revenge, that’s all, but with a rake more ice this time.’

Muireann was at least fifteen years younger than him, with a jet-black fringe and crimson plumped-up collagen lips and false eyelashes like two straggly blackbirds, although one of her eyelashes was starting to flap loose. She was wearing a tight red woollen dress, short and low-cut, and a Celtic moon pendant was abseiling deep into her cleavage. Thomas had bumped into her about two months ago in the Zombie Lounge and taken her back to his house that night for several hours of strenuous but silent sex, punctuated only by grunts. Since then she had stayed with him and followed him almost everywhere. He didn’t even know where she lived, and he didn’t actually care.

‘Haven’t you had enough?’ Thomas asked her. ‘What’s that, your fourth? Next thing I know you’ll be decorating my keks again.’

‘Come on, Tommy. Don’t be so tight. I’ve such a throat on me today, I don’t know why.’

Thomas looked across at Billy Hagerty. ‘Are you having one, boy?’

‘A Vitamin G will do me, thanks.’

Thomas nodded to one of his three henchmen, who had been sitting close together and arguing among themselves about which horses to back in the bumper races at Leopardstown this weekend. They could have been mistaken for triplets, these three, because they were all wearing black leather jackets and they all had floppy long-top hair shaved up at the sides, and beards, and snake tattoos wriggling out from under their collars.

‘Same all round, Darragh,’ said Thomas. ‘And a pint of plain for Billy.’

The young man was on his way to the bar when his phone rang. He answered it while he indicated to Lenny the barman by pointing his finger that he wanted refills all round and a pint of Guinness.

Suddenly, in a stage whisper, he said, ‘You wha’? Stop the lights, boy! Serious? Holy feckin’ Mary!’

He held out his phone to Thomas. ‘It’s Willie. He’s just heard it on the radio, like. Judge Quinn’s dead. He’s been killed in a car accident.’

‘You’re codding me,’ said Thomas, but he raised his hand to show that he wouldn’t take the phone. He never carried a phone, not even a burner or a stealth phone, because he was convinced that the Gardaí could still track his whereabouts and listen in to his calls. His philosophy was that if they didn’t know where he was and they didn’t know what he’d been talking about, they couldn’t lift him and they couldn’t prove what he was planning to do next.

‘Yeah, no. I’ll tell him,’ said Darragh. ‘See you later, boy. Okay.’

‘When did this happen?’ asked Thomas.

‘This morning sometime, that’s what Willie said. Somewhere up by Dublin Pike. There was no other cars involved. The cops are looking for a grey or a silver SUV, though, because whoever was driving that might have been a witness.’

‘No other cars involved?’ said Thomas. His long, thin jaw slowly rotated as he began to grind his teeth. He took several deep breaths and his eyes seemed to disappear altogether. Everybody else at the table leaned away from him, almost as if they were worried that he might physically explode and spatter them all.

No other cars involved? I’ll fecking murder that eejit O’Malley! I’ll fecking strangulate him myself and throw him off the Shakey Bridge. I can’t believe it! I cannot fecking believe it! After all the fecking trouble I took, Billy! All that fecking wheedling and needling! And there’s Quinn due to hand down your brother’s sentence this afternoon!’

‘Maybe it was just an accident, Tommy,’ said Muireann. ‘You know, like what Darragh said.’

‘Be whist, will you, you stupid slag. It was fecking O’Malley, it must have been. What was Quinn doing up at Dublin Pike when he lives in Tivoli? Have a last word, that’s what I told O’Malley. Give him a final reminder. But polite, like. Polite.’

Thomas sat simmering while everybody else at the table finished their drinks in quick, uncomfortable gulps.

After a few minutes Thomas swallowed the last dregs of his Murphy’s, and his Paddy’s chaser, banging both glasses down on the table so hard that everybody jumped, and stood up.

‘Right, lads,’ he said, ‘we’re up to Farranree to have a word with O’Malley. I want to know exactly what kind of an accident it was that Quinn was killed in. The razzers could well be after coming around looking for us before too long, asking awkward questions, do you know? And how can you say that you don’t know nothing about something unless you know what that something is that you don’t know nothing about – am I right?’

Billy was zipping up his puffer jacket, and blinked. ‘You’re right,’ he agreed. Then, ‘Do you want to say that again?’

‘Just get going, Billy. I’ll have Darragh ring you later when we’ve found out a bit more.’

‘See you later, men!’ called out Lenny the barman as they made their way to the pub’s front door. Thomas lifted his hand but didn’t answer.

Billy was the first to step into the street. It was pelting now, and the rainwater was running in rib-like patterns down the middle of Gerald Griffin Street and gushing out of the blocked-up shores. The clouds were so low that they looked as if they were being ripped apart on the TV aerials like ragged grey sheets. A truck loaded with scaffolding was grinding slowly down the hill, and at the same time a bronze Honda Accord was coming up the hill towards The Weavers, with its headlights full on.

The Honda slowed down as it approached the corner of Cathedral Walk. As it came level with the pub door, its rear nearside window was lowered, and there were two suppressed gunshots, like loud sneezes, followed by a third. Billy danced a little jig and then tumbled sideways on to the pavement, ending up flat on his back with his arms spread wide. Thomas had been following him out of the door but he threw himself backwards, colliding with Muireann, and then he dived to the floor, knocking over the umbrella stand.

Darragh pushed Muireann to one side and leapt out of the door, yanking a pistol out of his black leather jacket. He pointed it up the hill, but it was too late now. The Honda was already turning the corner into Cathedral Road, its red brake lights flaring for an instant before it disappeared.

Darragh turned around. Billy was still lying on his back on the pavement and dark red blood was streaming from his head and down the hill. Thomas peered out of the pub door and when he saw that the Honda had gone he stepped outside.

‘Muireann, stay there, girl,’ he told her. ‘You don’t want to be seeing none of this.’

Thomas and his henchmen gathered around Billy, looking down at him in silence as if they were distant relatives who had just arrived at a wake. One shot had hit him in the right side of his mouth, so that his jawbone was hanging to one side, with all his teeth in it, most of them filled with silver amalgam. A second shot had hit him about three centimetres above the left eye. The entry wound was nothing more than a neat circle, but the hollow-point bullet had burst inside his head and cracked open the back of his skull. His custard-coloured brains were slowly sliding on to the paving stones, mingled with blood.

The third shot had punctured the front of his puffer jacket, slightly to the right, so that it had probably penetrated his liver.

Lenny the barman appeared in the doorway. ‘I’ve rung the guards, like. I told them that we’ll be needing an ambulance, too.’ He peered over at Billy and said, ‘Jesus. Is he dead?’

‘Of course not,’ said Thomas. ‘He’s having a bit of a snooze, that’s all. What the feck does it look like?’

‘What do we do now, boss?’ asked Milo, the second of his henchmen, anxiously gnawing at his thumbnail. On the opposite pavement, a small crowd of curious onlookers was gathering, but none of them ventured across the road because they could quite plainly see that Billy was beyond any mortal assistance.

‘We wait here until the razzers arrive, and when the razzers arrive and ask us what we saw we tell them the truth. We saw nothing and we know nothing. We don’t even know who this is, who’s been shot.’

‘I know who he is,’ said Milo. ‘He’s Billy Hagerty.’

‘Did he ever show you his birth certificate?’

‘Well – no, of course not.’

‘So how do you know that it’s really him?’

‘I don’t.’

‘So that’s what you tell the razzers. You don’t know who he is. End of story.’

Milo was about to say something else when he saw the expression on Thomas’s face, and this time Thomas’s eyes were about as wide open as he had ever seen them, like the heads of two steel nails.

‘No, you’re right, boss. I don’t know who he is at all. In fact I never even saw him before, even when we had a scoop together in The Constellation last Friday.’

‘God, give me strength,’ said Thomas, and took a deep breath. He couldn’t hear sirens, but flashing blue lights were being reflected from the shop windows all along Gerald Griffin Street, as two Garda squad cars came speeding down towards them.

4

Katie had intended to drive straight home to Cobh after Conor’s funeral, so that she could take her Irish setter, Barney, and her red-and-white setter, Foltchain, out for a walk up to the tennis club. Conor had always made such a fuss of them, and whenever she arrived back at Carrig View alone it was clear that they wondered where he was, but how could she explain his death to two dogs?

After what had happened to Garrett Quinn, though, there was no question that both she and Kyna would have to return to Garda headquarters. Before she had left Ballincollie Road, she had already put in a call to the Anglesea Street control room and told Sergeant Murphy to check his CCTV screens to see if he could trace how Garrett’s car had ended up at White’s Cross. To reach the courthouse, he should have been driving directly down to the city centre from his home in Tivoli by way of the Lower Glanmire Road, which ran westwards along the north bank of the River Lee. White’s Cross was more than six kilometres due north.

Katie had also spoken briefly with the Garda press officer, Mathew McElvey, telling him to arrange a media conference at 5:15, well in time for RTÉ to feature a report about Garrett on the Six One News. A newsflash that he had been fatally injured had already been given out on Cork FM, but she intended to announce only that he had been involved in a traffic incident, and that a Garda investigation was ongoing. She was not going to say that he had been cremated as he sat inside his car.

She parked in her usual place behind the Garda station, but before they went inside she said to Kyna, ‘I think we need to pay a visit to Stephen Herlihy first. I’d like to know when they’re going to reschedule Donal Hagerty’s committal hearing. Apart from giving him my condolences.’

They crossed over to the new criminal courthouse. The administrative offices were facing the street, in renovated red-brick buildings from the Model School of 1864, with a sixty-foot campanile, in which the older pupils used to be taken up to

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